Hello Church Devotion Sept. 06, 2013

F is for Fasting

“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:16-18 NIV 84

Fasting is a rarely practiced an often time misunderstood discipline within the church today. It is likely that if you hear about fasting today it will be in regards to some type of physical cleanse. The object of these cleanses is to rid your body of impurities, chemicals, or the effects from certain types foods. This type of fast is however quite different from the fasting that we read about in scripture. Fasting in scripture is a spiritual discipline that is neither commanded nor forgotten. The discipline of fasting was practiced by Jesus and many other key figures throughout God’s word. For us it is important to be reminded that fasting still holds value for us as followers of Christ.

In order to better understand and see fasting in its proper form we need to reject some of the false claims connected to it. Fasting is not intended to be a way for us to assert our will in a situation and force an answer from God or others. It should not be used as a way to draw attention to ourselves as some were in the habit of doing for that stirs up and instills in us the wrong reason for fasting. In Matthew 6, noted above, we see Jesus response to such fasting and his direction to fast in such a way as to not make it obvious but rather to fast in secret. Jesus doesn’t condemn fasting but rather the improper manner in which some had grown accustomed to fasting. It is very clear that it is not to be used as a way to glorify ourselves among fellow believers as some of the hypocrites were doing.

Some question the merit of fasting now because of Jesus own words. “They said to him, ‘John’s disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking.’ Jesus answered, ‘Can you make the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast’ (Luke 5:33-35).” It might be argued that because we know our Savior that we have no need to fast like the disciples. But that would miss the last part of the passage from Luke 5 that clearly indicates that Christ realizes that fasting will again become a part of their discipleship after his ascension. Fasting has a place as a spiritual discipline that we can take part in but it is not a required act.

However, it is clear that fasting can have a place in our lives as even Christ, the Son of God fasted at different points during his life. We see Jesus fast in Matthew 4:1-4, “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.’ Jesus answered, ‘It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” It is in this event and by Jesus example that we begin to understand what fasting is really about. Fasting is about the importance of being fed by God. Christ had not eaten for 40 days and yet he was sustained by the spiritual food of God’s word that has more value than any earthly food can offer.

For us fasting is a way that we can recognize the sustenance that comes from God’s word and the Spirit working in our lives. We can use this discipline as a way to train our bodies to not rely more on temporary sustenance than on the eternal sustenance of God. Fasting is done in response to Christ’s love for us but not as a way to earn salvation or some other reward. It can help us keep balance in our lives so that we don’t get caught up in everyday situations and forget the true essentials of life. Fasting is about the spiritual food of being in his word and being sustained by the new life we have in Christ.

Consider taking part in a small fast and devoting the time and energy to be in God’s word instead of the thing you are fasting from. You may find that through this process you begin to see growth in your spiritual life as more of the outside noise diminishes and self control and attention to God’s word and direction increases.

Prayer: Dear Lord God, I come to you this day thankful for you loving sacrifice. You sent your Son to take our place so that we might have eternal life through Him. Lord, help me to be aware of the many different spiritual disciplines. Disciplines like fasting that allow for me to refocus on you Lord and to hear your guidance over the outside noise that constantly bombards me from the world. Help me to hear you more clearly and trust in you in all circumstances, knowing that you are the author and perfector of our faith. I ask this in the strong name of Jesus, our Lord. Amen.

Further Thoughts:

1. In John 4:31-34 Jesus states: “Meanwhile his disciples urged him, ‘Rabbi, eat something.’ But he said to them, ‘I have food to eat that you know nothing about.’ Then his disciples said to each other, ‘Could someone have brought him food?’ ‘My Food,’ said Jesus, ‘is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work’.” Although this may not have specifically been a fast, what can we learn from Jesus answer that we can apply to the discipline of fasting?

2. Are there specific things in your life that get in the way of you hearing God’s word? What are they?

3. How might a fast from some things equip/prepare you to better serve the Lord?